The Centre on Wednesday issued revised guidelines for phase II of Covid-19 lockdown announced by PM Narendra Modi on Tuesday. The new guidelines, to be operational from April 20, provide many relaxations to lockdown prohibitions including large-scale operationalisation of rural and agricultural economy, manufacturing sector in SEZs and industrial zones and all e-commerce activities. There would be strict prohibitions, however, in notified Covid containment zones.
With these new guidelines, the government hopes to kickstart the economy and support the rural poor who have suffered the most due to lockdown measures.
To ensure smooth implementation of the new guidelines, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba is currently holding a meeting with state chief secretaries and police chiefs.
“Meeting is being held by the Cabinet Secretary with state Chief Secretaries and DGPs to discuss smooth and effective implementation of revised guidelines that were issued earlier in the morning today. Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Union Home Secretary and Union Health Secretary are also present. All Collectors, SPs municipal commissioners and civil surgeons are also participating in the conference,” an MHA spokesperson said.
Following PM Narendra Modi’s address to the nation announcing lockdown extension till May 3, the union Home Ministry had issued formal orders on Tuesday saying that lockdown guidelines issued earlier through notification on March, 24, 25, 27 and April 2, 4 and 10 shall remain in force till April 20.
“To provide an impetus to the rural economy, industries operating in rural areas, including food processing industries; construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and industrial projects in rural areas; works under MNREGA, with priority to irrigation and water conservation works; and operation of rural Common Service Centres (CSCs) have all been allowed. These activities will create job opportunities for rural labour, including the migrant labour force,” an MHA statement said quoting from the new guidelines.
According to the new guidelines, manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control have been permitted in SEZs, EoUs, industrial estates and industrial townships after implementation of SOP for social distancing.
“Manufacture of IT hardware and of essential goods and packaging are also allowed. Coal, mineral and oil production are permitted activities. It is expected that the industrial and manufacturing sectors will see a revival with these measures, and will create job opportunities while maintaining safety protocols and social distancing. At the same time, the important components of the financial sector, e.g., RBI, banks, ATMs, capital and debt markets as notified by SEBI and insurance companies will also remain functional, with a view to provide enough liquidity and credit support to the industrial sectors,” the statement quoting the guidelines said.
Recognising the criticality of the digital economy to the services sector during the lockdown, the guidelines have allowed “e-commerce operations, operations of IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres for Government activities, and online teaching and distance learning”.
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“The objective of the revised guidelines is to consolidate the gains achieved during the 1st phase of lockdown and further slow down the spread of Covid 19 and at the same time provide relief to farmers, labourers and daily wage earners,” the MHA spokesperson said.
According to MHA, the new guidelines are “aimed at ensuring that agricultural and related activities remain fully functional, the rural economy functions with maximum efficiency, employment opportunities are created for daily wage earners and other members of the labour force, select industrial activities are allowed to resume their operations, with adequate safeguards and mandatory standard operating protocols (SOPs) and the digital economy.”
At the same time the MHA has issued “National Directives for COVID-19 management” which have to be enforced by the District Magistrates through fines and penal action as prescribed in the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Notably, the activities permitted under the revised guidelines will not be allowed within the containment zones as demarcated by States and union territories as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHF&W). In these zones, no unchecked inward/ outward movement of population would be allowed, except for maintaining essential services, i.e., medical emergencies and law and order duties, and government business continuity.
“Very strong containment measures will be implemented in the hotspot districts accounting for a large number of Covid 19 cases or with fast growth of cases. Detailed guidelines on delineation of containment zones and containment measures have also been issued. Only essential services are to be permitted in these zones and strict perimeter control and strict restrictions on movement enforced,” the guidelines said.
The activities prohibited across the country include travel by air, rail and road; operation of educational and training institutions; industrial and commercial activities; hospitality services; all cinema halls, shopping complexes, theatres, etc., all social, political and other events, and opening of all religious places/ places of worship for members of public, including religious congregations.
“There are certain national guidelines like mandatory home-made face covers at work places and in public places ,strong hygiene and health care measures like provision of sanitisers , staggered shifts , access control , thermal screening and imposing fines for spitting etc. penalties will be imposed for violation,” the MHA said.
It reiterated that transportation of goods will be permitted without any distinction of essential or non essential. Farming operations, including procurement of agricultural products, agriculture marketing through notified Mandis and direct and decentralized marketing, manufacture, distribution and retail of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds; activities of marine and inland fisheries; animal husbandry activities, including the supply chain of milk, milk products, poultry and live-stock farming; and tea, coffee and rubber plantations are allowed to be functional as per the previous guidelines.
The revised guidelines also permit all health services and the social sector to remain functional; public utilities to function without any hindrance; the supply chain of essential goods to operate without any hindrance; and, important offices of Central and State Governments and local bodies to remain open with required strength.